In our last post, we provided an overview of a claim for failing to accommodation a religion. There are important takeaways and best practices employees should keep in mind when requesting a religious accommodation:
1. It’s important to actually hold a sincere religious belief that conflicts with the workplace requirement. While this sounds like common sense and may even elicit an eye roll, you would be surprised. There are many cases where an employee threw out words to the effect of, “this goes against my religion,” when in fact it didn’t, or in instances where the person simply said it because they knew others in the workplace were receiving religious accommodations. Religious accommodation requests are not “excuses,” they are the result of legitimate conflicts between a person’s religion and a workplace requirement.
2. It’s important to make clear why you need the accommodation. Employers are generally suspicious of religious accommodation requests. You may say it’s biased, but many times it’s the result of having received bogus requests in the past (see the previous point). So, if you intend to request a religious accommodation, be specific. Specify the workplace requirement that conflicts with your religious belief and identify that religious belief. The more specific you are, the greater the less painful the experience with the employer should be.
3. Be able to prove that your employer is aware of your accommodation request and the reason for the request. This can be accomplished one of two ways: email or in a letter. We advocate emails because you automatically have a copy that shows the date and time the email was sent, in the event issues arise down the road. KEEP THE EMAIL FOR YOUR RECORDS! As a pointer, we generally advocate emails for any sort of notification that may require verification down the road, such as complaints of discrimination or harassment in the workplace and the like.
4. Work with the employer to find a mutually-acceptable accommodation. In certain circumstances, the specific accommodation you request could be overly burdensome on the employer or not otherwise feasible. In other situations, the employer may simply want to discuss other options and alternatives with you to find the best solution to the conflict between your religious belief and the workplace requirement. Point is that you should work with your employer to find the best solution to the workplace conflict.